Friday, September 19, 2008

Thailand rebuffs US cable plan

PHUSADEE ARUNMAS

Thailand has expressed strong disagreement with a proposal by the United States to extend the scope of copyright protection to signals transmitted through cable TV and satellite.

Such signals are already considered as copyright according to Thai laws, said Wiboonlasna Ruamraksa, the deputy director-general of the Intellectual Property Department, who attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) Intellectual Property Expert Group (IPEC) meetings recently in Lima, Peru.

At IPEC, Washington pressed its signal theft initiative to include signals transmitted through cable and satellite so that it could take legal action against pirates who breach copyright protection.

Ms Wiboonlasna said the enforcement of Thailand's existing copyright law already covered movies transmitted through cable and satellite.

''Signal piracy should rest on the organisations or units that take care of TV and satellite signals,'' she said.

According to the International Intellectual Property Alliance, piracy in Thailand of cable and satellite broadcasting signals, especially US programming, remains rampant, causing revenue losses estimated at US$160 million, the second highest losses in the Asia-Pacific region.

Illegal decoder boxes and smart cards are widely available in Thailand. The cable industry said that in late 2006, there were 1.33 million pirate cable hook-ups, a 10% increase over the previous year, compared with 509,000 legitimate subscribers to pay TV operators.

It said that Thailand had yet to establish an effective system to license and regulate broadcast and cable facilities with the authority to take actions to deter illegal broadcasters.

As well, it said, public performance piracy was thriving in Thailand, as many unlicensed cable operators, particularly in provincial areas, now transmit continuous, unauthorised motion pictures on dedicated movie channels. Hotels, bars and restaurants also screen videos over in-house systems.

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